David Liu (Casey Atkins Photography courtesy Broad Institute)

David Liu has a new big idea: pro­teome edit­ing. It could one day shred tau, RAS and some of the worst dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins

Be­fore David Liu be­came fa­mous for in­vent­ing new forms of gene edit­ing, he was known around acad­e­mia in part for a more ob­scure in­no­va­tion: a Rube Gold­berg-es­que sys­tem that us­es bac­te­ria-in­fect­ing virus­es to take one pro­tein and turn it in­to an­oth­er.

Since 2011, Liu’s lab has used the sys­tem, called PACE, to dream up fan­tas­ti­cal new pro­teins: DNA base ed­i­tors far more pow­er­ful than the orig­i­nal; more ver­sa­tile forms of the gene ed­i­tor Cas9; in­sec­ti­cides that kill in­sec­ti­cide-re­sis­tant bugs; en­zymes that slide syn­thet­ic amino acids in­to liv­ing or­gan­isms. But they strug­gled through­out to mas­ter one of the most com­mon and pow­er­ful pro­teins in the bi­o­log­i­cal world: pro­teas­es, a set of Swiss army knife en­zymes that cut, cleave or shred oth­er pro­teins in every­thing from virus­es to hu­mans.

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